ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The UNM Summer Music Institute, celebrating its second season, is the creation of violist Kimberly Fredenburgh and violinist Cármelo de los Santos. Devoted to string chamber music, its week-long concert series combines UNM faculty, guest artists and promising young student players having traveled here from a variety of distant locations. The opening concert of the series, “Sergiu Schwartz and Friends,” featured the Romanian-Israeli violinist in music by Bach, Brahms, Mozart, Dohnanyi and Dvorak.
A whirlwind sampling of outstanding string music through three centuries, each entry come forth as vibrantly and stunningly as the last, performed by some of the area’s most talented string players. Schwartz and pianist Jui-Ling Hsu began with the Scherzo of the so-called F.A.E. sonata, a collaborative work by Schumann, Brahms, and Schumann’s pupil Albert Dietrich. FAE refers to “Frei aber einsam” (“free but lonely”) a phrase Schumann had taken to heart. The scherzo by Brahms is the most often performed movement. Schwartz demonstrated a robust, gutsy tone (which personally I prefer) perfectly attuned to bring out the hearty nature of the themes.
He then returned with de los Santos for the Bach Concerto for Two Violins, accompanied by a quintet of players. The two soloists matched each other brilliantly, the musical lines twisting, turning, hooking and sliding about each other, their voices carrying different tunes yet so closely intertwined as to be inseparable in the rich texture. The central Largo, taken here at a relatively crisp pace, is one of Bach’s most sublime creations, seemingly an operatic aria for two voices. A thrilling performance of what may be the most perfect concerto ever written, the mastery of counterpoint never again equaled.
But then, Mozart also demonstrates supreme contrapuntal artistry with only two solo string instruments in his Duo No. 1 for Violin and Viola (KV 423). He originally passed off this work as someone else’s, namely Michael Haydn, giving this and another duet to Haydn, who had fallen ill, to complete a set of six. Nor was this the only time Mozart had been so generous with his friends. De los Santos and Fredenburgh combined their talents in two movements of this marvelous work, trading back and forth the theme in the third movement and sounding as though there were indeed more instruments participating. Some exquisite playing.
Turning to the early 20th century, they were joined by cellist David Schepps in three movements of Ernest von Dohnanyi’s Serenade. The opening March harkens back to serenades of the 18th c. signifying the entrance of the high-ranking person who had arranged the evening’s entertainment. The fourth movement, a theme and variations, full of sensuous warmth, was followed by the bold rondo with its double-stop exclamations, running scales, and a reprise of the opening march.
The evening concluded with the opening Allegro of Dvorak’s String Quintet No. 2.
The piece is unusual in that employs a double bass (Mark Tatum), an infrequent guest in the chamber world, beneath the cello, deepening the bass. The texture is opulently rich, almost (and I emphasize almost) over-egging the pudding.
The series concludes Sunday (May 31) at 2pm, in Keller Hall on the UNM campus. Music of Villa-Lobos, Vivaldi and Dvorak.